The Blanket

The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent
The Bogeyman

The problem with 'terrorists' is that they keep their word, politicians usually don't - Gerry Adams


Anthony McIntyre • 19 November 2006

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern says he believes it. Tanaiste Michael McDowell claims not to. PSNI boss Hugh Orde says it's true, yet his special branch has no knowledge of it. Paul Leighton and Peter Hain haltingly testify to its existence, while Ian Paisley junior scorns it as some sort of pathetic distraction. The warnings about it came from neither the Garda nor PSNI. The Continuity IRA, Real IRA and INLA have all denied any association with or knowledge of it.

Whatever about 'it' the truth status of the 'great dissident threat to Sinn Fein leaders' story has kept the media busy in a week which was otherwise much the same as the week before - politicians trying to kick each other off the greasy pole to power. Most people are bored with that, so the 'dissident threat' morsel spices up the news. It is through bemused eyes that the media handling of the story is to be viewed. The invisible threat is reported with great verve but no mention of the fact that those allegedly under threat have spent their entire adult lives threatening others and worse. Nor has the media bothered to ask why, after years of accusing dissidents of being micro groups, penetrated by British intelligence and incapable of pulling off any serious operation, should Sinn Fein be concerned about threats emanating from such quarters.

Most people outside Sinn Fein think the leadership lie machine is doing what it does most - spoofing; the purpose being to kill off any debate on policing that is not leadership controlled and as a result rendered anodyne. Widely laughed at when it blames securocrats for its misfortunes or bungling negotiating, the leadership, under new stresses, comes up with new bogeymen - dissentocrats. This mosaic of diverse crats has for years, apparently, found common cause against Sinn Fein. No skulduggery or mischief is considered beyond the pale of the evil schemers in the crat alliance to stop Gerry Kelly becoming a peeler.

If, in the interests of best practice, observers bypass the dubious testimony of Sinn Fein politicians, the pseudo strategic discourse of AP/RN bamboozlers, or the Dear Leader column in the Irish News, what evidence is there of any threat? The Blanket sought out the views of a wide but diverse range of opinion within the republican spectrum that is at odds with Sinn Fein's political project. These days there is no shortage of voices ready to make themselves heard. They all doubted the existence of any threat.

Brendan Hughes, who along with Gerry Adams ran the IRA's Belfast Brigade in 1972 and 1973, dismissed the claim as an election stunt ahead of the March polls:

There is no threat. They are certainly not under any threat from the Brits! It is all bullshit. The only people likely to be under threat are you, me, Marian Price, Tommy Gorman - anybody who has questioned the hopeless direction this party has travelled in.

Hughes thinks few people will be taken in by it. He said Sinn Fein leaders have been "lying for so long about everything, nobody is going to fall for this."

Richard O'Rawe, author of the influential book Blanketmen, was equally sceptical of the allegations first made public by Gerry Adams. "I don't think anybody is threatening this man at all." O'Rawe believes it is a self-serving two pronged Sinn Fein construct.

On one hand it sends a message to the DUP that Sinn Fein leaders are eager to meet the unionist demands and are risking their lives to do so. At the same time, it is an attempt to blackmail those within Sinn Fein into staying put. They are being told that if they leave the movement the type of people they will end up with are those who want to kill the leadership.

For O'Rawe it is nothing more than a transparent fraud that others should see through readily enough.

Dolours Price, who survived a prolonged hunger strike in British prisons in the 1970s where she was sentenced to life for leading the first IRA Provisional bombing team to target the British capital, and who served under Gerry Adams when he commanded the Belfast IRA, queries the existence of any threat. In her view it is an attempt by Adams to stupefy the republican base into diving headlong into policing structures. Adams pushes the threat line so that "he can tell his followers that the best way to have protection is to be part of the state and its armed wing, the police." She is adamant that there is no threat to Adams or his fellow contras. "I am absolutely convinced, as a result of my republican contacts, that there is no threat whatsoever." She goes on to ask why would anybody bother targeting Sinn Fein leaders.

The more ridiculous they become the less anybody would be interested in threatening them. No republican would want to kill David Ford of the Alliance Party. Gerry Adams is just the same as Ford or any other political leader. Sinn Fein is just another political party. What difference is there between Adams and other political leaders apart from Adams telling more lies?

Price reinforces the view that none of the republicans critical of Sinn Fein have ever attacked the party physically. "Sinn Fein has that dubious distinction all to itself. I was visited by the Garda and told that the PSNI had information that I was to be attacked by the Provisionals because I had protested at their meetings." She is scathing of their motives. "They want to join the cops. Shame on the first one of them to put on a British uniform."

Kevin McQuillan, one time chairperson of the IRSP, feels that the threat claim is a "cynically contrived no-brainer." He argues that while there is strong opposition on the ground to the Sinn Fein 'sell out' this does not translate "in any way, shape or form into threats against the party." For McQuillan, Sinn Fein is concerned by what it sees as a realignment of republicans and the emergence of broad front politics against what Sinn Fein is trying to do. "The party leadership wants to corral the herd in order to bloc vote through the remaining concessions that the Brits and DUP are demanding it makes to meet the demands of the St Andrew's Agreement."

Carrie Twomey, editor of The Blanket, derides the Sinn Fein claims.

As one poster on an internet site pointed out, at one time if you challenged them they would accuse you of lining up with the Omagh bombers. Now that nobody any longer believes that dissent equates with Omagh, they accuse those who question their strategy of being part of a plot to kill them. Either way, it's a crude attempt at demonising their opposition. Their tactics are transparent, patronizing, as if people are idiots who haven't a brain in their head to see through them. They treat people with contempt when they come out with guff like this and expect it to be believed unquestioningly.

Patricia Campbell, a Tyrone republican who is a columnist with the radical journal Fourthwrite, says she is suspicious about the claims. "I know that there have been slogans on walls calling Sinn Fein traitors. But the media seem to be blowing this out of all proportion. I have never trusted the media and still don't."

Tommy Gorman, a former Maidstone escapee and H-block blanket protestor, is not surprised at Sinn Fein coming up with the threat idea. "Not because it exists but because Sinn Fein is in a tight corner and needs to create a bogey man." He cites Bernadette McAliskey who once pointed out that the peace process began like a funnel but over time narrowed to the point where the only option is to be squeezed.

At the start there is plenty of wriggle room in which to deceive the rank and file. But the further down you go the tighter it becomes until there is no room to do anything other than what those who control the funnel want. We always insisted that this was where it would end up. And so it has. The leadership is now willingly pushing through everything it once swore to oppose. Consequently, the scales are finally beginning to drop off the eyes of the grassroots. The leadership is panicking and wants the eyes blinkered up again. They are desperate to stop their own people experiencing other ideas.

Gorman then draws on an analogy once made by George Galloway when the Respect MP riposted Christopher Hitchens. "The Sinn Fein leadership has managed to metamorphose from butterfly into slug." He sums the party leadership up in one word - "pathetic".

Marian Price, once a former IRA hunger striker and life sentence prisoner, retains the political perspective that motivated her throughout the darkest days of her life. She is scathing of the "nonsense, absolute nonsense" pedalled by Sinn Fein leaders. She is unhesitating in asserting that there is not the remotest possibility of republicans attacking anybody in Sinn Fein.

With the Provisionals so far down the road of dishonour why would people decide to take action of the type alleged by Sinn Fein? Republicans have been pointing out for years this is where Sinn Fein would end up. There is nothing surprising about it. People who have not targeted Sinn Fein over the past decade or more are most definitely not going to do so now.

Marian Price believes the Provisional movement is boxed in with nowhere left to go but cap in hand into the jaws of the beast. With many of its own members starting to realise that they were sold a pup, its leaders are now desperate to create a smokescreen as cover for the final step in their retreat from republicanism. She argues that the leadership is also determined to ensure its own members do not link up in a common political project with people it calls dissidents

They want sympathy. The danger is that instead of coming clean about where they have taken their people they are spreading nonsense that could feed into a feud mentality. Republicans will not fall for it. Republicans will sit back and watch Sinn Fein leaders be exposed for what they are.

John Kelly from South Derry, who was a Sinn Fein MLA before he resigned from the party after being hounded for supporting republican prisoners in Maghaberry, believes it is a "smear campaign against those republicans who do not agree with the leadership. It is Provo black propaganda." A former founding member of the Provisional IRA, Kelly thinks it highly significant that the only evidence for the supposed threats comes from the Provisionals themselves. "It is an effort to distract attention away from their stance on policing. It is quite deliberate." He was scathing of Gerry Adams' cynical attempt to elicit public sympathy on the grounds of his family being alarmed. "There is absolutely no consideration from Adams for the families of those he falsely alleges are his would-be assassins." Kelly goes on to say that "Mr Adams is being deliberately hurtful to his former comrades in arms. Then again, by his own account Mr Adams was a draft dodger so would not understand the concept of fealty to comrades in arms!"

Seamus Kearney, a former republican prisoner also from South Derry, regards the threats as nonsense made up by Sinn Fein.

They can't really complain about being viewed as traitors after all they have done. They brought Franko Hegarty back and executed him for giving away fewer guns than they did. But that does not mean anybody is planning to kill them. I think republicans just laugh at them. They could never be regarded as republicans after getting into bed with the Brits.

Michael Donnelly, a former internee who once had his limbs broken by a Sinn Fein gang, agreed with Seamus Kearney that many people would view the Sinn Fein leadership as traitors and some would probably like to see the back of them:

But this does not mean anybody is serious about threatening them. I suppose people might sound off about them but that hardly amounts to a real threat. They have played the underdog so long that they think by trying it again they will win sympathy. They are on the defensive politically and need a scapegoat.

Donnelly posits an alternative view of the origins of the threat allegations.

They have outlived their usefulness to MI5. They can't deliver because Paisley is not interested in having McGuinness as his deputy. He prefers someone like Michelle Gildernew. So you can't rule out the intelligence services putting the mix in to bring that situation about.

He is certain that there is no basis to the threat allegation. "It does not exist." He contends that, in fact, it is the other way round. "I am threatened by the Provisionals all the time. Recently they threatened to raid a house in search of a computer because they believed it hosted a website that challenged their line." Donnelly argues that many republicans in Derry keep talking about the need to look over their shoulder in case Sinn Fein makes a move on them. "There is a gap in the political process for a while and the Provos might be planning to use it to flex their muscles."

Tony McPhilips is a Fermanagh based activist involved in defending the rights of political prisoners. Describing himself as an anti-treaty republican, he slams the Sinn Fein claims as laughable.

To suggest that republicans who have always opposed treaties would suddenly decide to target Adams and McGuinness doesn't add up. The camel's back was not broken by any recent event. The camel collapsed a long time ago. Anybody who wanted to target Adams and McGuinness would probably have done it back then. It is not going to happen. Whose agenda does it suit? Adams and McGuiness and no one else.

Sean McCaughey, until recently a Sinn Fein activist in South Belfast, said he had initially paid no attention to the claims of Sinn Fein, putting it down to yet more drivel. After he did think about it he wondered why he bothered as the only conclusion he could come up was that it was still more drivel. "It is a distraction created by Sinn Fein spin doctors to divert attention away from the final dilution of republican principles as they slaughter the last sacred cow, opposition to a British police force, on the altar of the peace process."

Ivan Morley, from Newry, who in tonight's issue of The Blanket writes an article about his late father, Davey, the former O/C of Long Kesh, says he is sceptical about the existence of any threat.

Rather than it being a threat to them it is a threat engineered by them. I think it is to win themselves some kudos. They are brilliant manipulators and like they have done on other occasions they are trying to manipulate the current situation to their own end.

Martin Cunningham, a former Sinn Fein councillor in South Down, is another republican not persuaded by Sinn Fein's protestations.

It is attention seeking. They want sympathy as they try to buy time to get into the police. People are asking questions and that is the last thing Sinn Fein want. They need people who will accept being told what to do and question nothing. So they come up with this swindle to keep people obedient. There is no threat.

The former republican prisoner Brendan Shannon is particularly critical of Hugh Orde's intervention in the matter, arguing that the PSNI boss's concern about republicans under threat is only newly found.

He has said nothing over the years when there were very real threats from the Sinn Fein leadership to its republican critics. What is a serious threat? A member of my family recently received live ammunition through the post. The cops said it was a threat but not a serious one. They have nothing like that to show that Sinn Fein is under threat.

He further argues that Orde's backing of the Sinn Fein position is clear evidence that the party is not even republican. "When do the cops ever support anything republicans say? For years dissidents have been threatened and harmed by the Provisionals and no cop said anything." He says Sinn Fein is appearing ridiculous in its desperate attempt to cover up for its strategic failings. "Think about it. If you are a dissident it is much better to sit and watch these people being exposed. Their republican veneer is being peeled away like the layers of an onion. Much better to see them humiliated than threatened."

Republicans like Shannon do not rule out Sinn Fein launching a Four Courts type strike against those who refuse to accept the new political dispensation. He harbours a suspicion that former IRA comrades such as Gerry Adams and Martin McGuinness, on the pretext that it is pre-emptive, may follow in the footsteps of their forbears, Richard Mulcahy and Kevin O'Higgins, and order a little of Auden's necessary murder. "It is a Sinn Fein devised tactic aimed at preparing the ground to lash out at its opponents in the full knowledge that the British will turn a blind eye. They are under no threat; it is a load of balls."

Willie Gallagher of the IRSP repeated to The Blanket earlier claims he had made to the Sunday Times, Belfast Telegraph, Derry Journal and on an IRSP website. He said Martin McGuinness, who he described as 'Chief $pin Fein Liar' and Gerry Adams, 'the darling of Bush', have fashioned a strategy to suppress any dissenting voices within republicanism. This had led them to spew:

Bogus rubbish, lies and spin. I believe that someone in Sinn Fein has concocted this to divert people away from the party's internal problems with the PSNI. It is designed to get the troops to rally round the leadership during this 'great time of danger' and stifle political criticism. These ridiculous claims are a blatant attempt to negate any debate within the anti-PSNI republican camp by vilifying us as collaborators and assassins so that nobody will have anything to do with us and also to suck up to their masters in Downing Street. 'Look at poor us, Tony, risking our lives in the pursuit of joining your police force.'

Gallagher feels that Adams and McGuinness are themselves targeting for marginalisation those who attended a series of meetings organised by republicans opposed to the political direction of Sinn Fein. However he insisted;

These are ridiculous claims from two proven liars. I am one of the individuals who has attended every one of these so called 'coming together' events that Martin McGuinness has referred to and I can assure him that nothing of the sort that he has alluded to was discussed. In fact, to be quite frank, if talk like that came up, we would not be there. There has been absolutely no discussions whatsoever on any type of military action, assassination or conspiracies, no discussion of any kind of military campaign. We are absolutely opposed to anyone from Sinn Fein being killed. McGuinness and Adams know that quite well as current members of Sinn Fein attended the meetings. What we have discussed is the political capitulation of Sinn Fein. We won't be deflected from our opposition to acceptance of a corrupt British police force nor will we be forced into giving allegiance to a corrupt State or to a corrupt Sinn Fein leadership.

Gallagher, a long-standing Strabane republican, and former long-term republican prisoner, shares the concerned view of Brendan Shannon. He believes Hugh Orde's endorsement of Sinn Fein charges that its leaders are under threat is a strategic attempt on the part of the PSNI boss to create the conditions whereby republican opponents of the PSNI will face repressive measures endorsed by Sinn Fein. "The very fact that both Peter Hain and Hugh Orde have said that they are also aware of these claims suggests that this is a co-ordinated spin exercise by both the leadership of Sinn Fein and their British masters."

Others display a lesser sense of alarm, intuiting that Sinn have become so locked into the peace process that it has become almost impossible for the party to murder its detractors. Tommy McKearney, editor of Fourthwrite, doubts that the Provisionals feel threatened to the point where they would want to risk everything by taking military action against their republican critics. Nor does the former republican prisoner and H-Block hunger striker think there would be any desire on the part of those critics to start literally taking shots at the Sinn Fein leadership. "Even if some individual felt so inclined others around them would see the futility of it. I doubt if there is any threat but if it were to exist it would be both deplorable and insane."

In other times or places, given the scale of their abandonment of republican politics, Sinn Fein leaders might well have had cause for concern. A bit like the Russian oil oligarchs who stole their country's resources and grew rich on them at the expense of the citizens, these leaders became profiteers by selling off every republican asset that was acquired through the endurance and sacrifices of republican volunteers and activists. What belonged collectively to republicans was privatised in the hands of key leaders who traded off the lot in return for the booty of power and prosperity. They did quite well out of it.

It can hardly come as a surprise, therefore, to these same leaders that their incessant lying, manoeuvring behind the backs of their own activists, acquisition of wealth and property, the power at any price strategy would accumulatively nurture resentment. But even here they try to turn that very legitimate resentment into an asset that can be used to buy more sympathy. Adams and his colleagues, however, may not get the return they anticipated on this. Too long a lie makes a stone of the ear. Few are genuinely listening, although Sinn Fein's establishment friends pretend that they are. There is not the slightest evidence to suggest that republicans are prepared to follow the most base instincts and pose any physical threat to the lives, families or considerable property of the leaders of Contra Sinn Fein.





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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



There is no such thing as a dirty word. Nor is there a word so powerful, that it's going to send the listener to the lake of fire upon hearing it.
- Frank Zappa

Index: Current Articles

19 November 2006

Other Articles From This Issue:

The Bogeyman
Anthony McIntyre

Believe It Or Not
John Kennedy

Contra Con Artists
Anthony McIntyre

The Wrong Kind of Republican?
Ivan Morley

Equality Agenda: British Rhetoric and Reality
Martin Galvin

A Deal Done By Quislings
Mick Hall

Dr John Coulter

Deadline? Pull the other one!
David Adams

Political Policing
Martin Ingram

It's Not The Taking Part
Anthony McIntyre

Who Can Get Dr No to Say Yes?
Dr John Coulter

Equality or Equity
Michéal MháDonnáin

Michael Gillespie

Revolutionary Unionism
Dr John Coulter

Who Needs Enemies
John Kennedy

The King's Threshold
Robin Kirk

7 November 2006

When It's Time for Change, No One Is Irreplaceable
Mick Hall

Date Fixed For Flawed Landmark Case
Michael McKevitt Justice Campaign

Souper Sinn Fein
Eoghan O'Suilleabhain

Dr John Coulter

St Andrews Agreement & 'the Left'
Davy Carlin

Shotgun Wedding
John Kennedy

...and to create the space for a diversity of views...
Noel Dolan

'Undo the Great Betrayal, Free the Occupied 26'
Dr John Coulter

The Wind That Shakes the Barley
Anthony McIntyre

Power & Powerlessness
Patricia Campbell

The Constantine Institute
Terry O'Neill

Mary Robinson Spotlights Human Rights Abuses in Darfur
William Hughes

Fearless Speech
Anthony McIntyre



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